Free speech codes: maybe not needed by uni staff

Uni Sydney has changed its academic freedom charter, in-line with the Robert French free-speech code (CMM December 11). Good for campus visitors but is it a protection staff need? *

Advocates of enterprise agreements point out that the Federal Court judgement in the case between James Cook U and scientist Peter Ridd sets a precedent for the authority of industrial agreements. The university says it sacked Dr Ridd over criticism of research at the university, which breached its code of conduct. But Judge Vasta decided that he was protected by the academic freedom clause in JCU’s enterprise agreement (CMM April 18 and May 9).

This may be over-turned in JCU’s appeal next year. But for the present, and into the future if the university fails it seems an enterprise agreement could take precedence over a university version of Mr French’s model. “The only real protections for academic freedom in Australia are in the enterprise agreements negotiated by the NTEU, union national president Alison Barnes says (CMM April 23).

It’s a point Griffith U VC Carolyn Evans picked up in her consultation brief for staff on what a university code could cover – there are already a number of ways,” academic freedom and freedom of speech are best protected, “the Enterprise Agreement being the most notable.” (CMM November 12). Griffith U observers say the point has come up in senior management consultations there on a new free-speech code.



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